Defense attorneys challenge credibility of DEA informant

The Wamego Times,Volume 116 •Number 8 • February 20, 2003
by Mark Portell
Wamego Times Editor

A DEA informant in the LSD conspiracy case last week admitted he violated his "confidential source agreement" with the DEA, as well as a release agreement with the U. S. District Court regarding a charge of impersonating a federal officer.

During the last of 10 days of testimony in the trial of William Leonard Pickard and Clyde Apperson, Gordon Todd Skinner said he lied to the DEA and committed unlawful acts in violation of his DEA confidential source agreement, and that he violated federal and local laws in violation of a court-approved release agreement after being charged with impersonating a Secret Service agent at Harrah's Prairie Band Casino near Holton.

During cross-examination, defense attorneys challenged Skinner's credibility in the trial of Pickard and Apperson, the San Francisco area men charged with one count of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute more than 10 grams of LSD. The defendants were arrested in early November of 2000, after leaving the Wamego missile base with chemicals and equipment used in an alleged LSD tab. Skinner, who has admitted involvement in the alleged LSD conspiracy, has pledged cooperation with government in exchange for his own immunity.

IN JANUARY of 2000, Skinner was arrested and charged with the federal misdemeanor of impersonating a federal officer at Harrah's Prairie the Band Casino. A court-approved release agreement lieu included the stipulation that Skinner not commit any offense in violation of federal or local laws.

"No, I did not abide by it (the agreement)," Skinner testified in response to questions by Mark Bennett, defense attorney for Apperson. "I can't even count the number of federal or local laws I broke." Those violations, he said, included money laundering, concealing an LSD lab, concealing involvement in a conspiracy with Pickard, Apperson and others, possession of firearms, possession of stolen speakers (according to Pott County authorities), production of counterfeit checks, consumption of Schedule I (illegal) drugs, bribery (giving firearms to "a head of a corporation"), breaking and entering, and failing to file income tax.

"I've never reported income in my life, from the day I was born to his day," Skinner testified.

Bennett's questions about Skinner representing himself as a doctor in a Seattle, Wash. court in the summer of 2002, set off an exchange about Skinner's propensity for prevarication.

Bennett: That was a lie, wasn't it, Bennett asked of the Seattle matter,

Skinner: Absolutely.

Bennett: Over the years of illegal activity, you've found it necessary to be quick-witted and untruthful?

Skinner: Yes.

Bennett: Have you made up stories to stay out of jail and out of trouble?

Skinner: No.

Bennett: Have you made up stories to stay out of jail?

Skinner: No, I don't think I've been in situations like that.

Bennett: Have you developed an ability to look someone in the eye and lie to them about illegal activity?

Skinner: Yes.

Bennett: From age 19 to the present, have you lied to authorities to conceal your drug use?

Skinner: I'd have to think a long time about that.

Bennett: You've lied to conceal possession of drug manufacturing equipment'?

Skinner: Yes.

Bennett: You've lied to conceal your involvement in an illegal drug lab?

Skinner: Yes.

Bennett: You've lied to people about stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars'?

Skinner: Yes.

Bennett: When you get right down to it, Mr. Skinner, you're willing to lie whenever it will benefit you, isn't that right?

Skinner: No, that is not true.

Bennett: But you're willing to lie to stay out of trouble?

Skinner: Yes.

Bennett: And you're willing to lie to stay out of jai I?

Skinner: I don't know about that one. I need to ask a lawyer before I answer these questions. (After a long pause, Skinner admitted he was willing to lie to stay out of jail).

Bennett: Mr. Skinner, you're willing to lie to this court, aren't you?

Skinner: Again, I'd like access to a lawyer.

IN FURTHER testimony under cross-examination last week, Skinner told the jury how he had concealed 26 canisters of ET (ergotamine tartrate, an LSD precursor chemical valued at approximately $100,000 per canister) from the DEA even after he reached an immunity agreement with the U. S. Department of Justice.

Skinner said he hid the canisters in a bedroom of the residence of his former in-laws at Manhattan because he didn't know what was going to happen, and in case he got killed, the wanted his wife to have some financial security.

Skinner said he concealed the ET before reaching an immunity agreement with the government October 19, 2000, and before the DEA served a search warrant at the Wamego missile base October 31, 2000. Skinner said he finally turned the remainder of the ET over to the DEA in January of 2001. Skinner delivered 24 canisters to the DEA office at Oakland, Calif., and the two remaining canisters were delivered to DEA agents at a hotel near KCI at Kansas City.

IN OTHER testimony last week, Skinner said:

• He had a hard time convincing the DEA he had an LSD lab at the Wamego missile base. "They couldn't believe this massive LSD lab existed in the world," Skinner testified. "It was too vast . "

• He has used the aliases James Young, Charles Fletcher, Gerard Terrence Finnegan, Patrick Charles

Carroll and others to "avoid being traced" in illegal activities such as trafficking marijuana.

• About 90 percent ($37,000 to $41,000) of the metal Lester building on his Wamego missile base property was paid for with drug proceeds.

• He had forged two Bank of America checks-one for between $176,000 and $190,000, and the other for $150,000. He forged the checks by using a computer to scan images onto bank paper stock he obtained.

One of several Porsches he owned while at Wamego was leased through Gardner Industries, his mother's spring factory at Tulsa, Okla., and was paid for with drug proceeds. Another limited-edition Porsche, valued at $110,000, was paid for with a check on the account of the White Lotus Foundation of Santa Barbara, Calif., which currently has an $80,000 judgment, against Skinner.

Skinner IDs 'ET Man'

The Wamego Times,Volume 116 •Number 8 • February 20, 2003

The DEA informant in the LSD conspiracy case last week identified the "ET Man" in the alleged conspiracy as a man named Jim Miller

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Mark Bennett, Gordon Todd Skinner, former owner of the converted Atlas-E missile base near Wamego which was raided by DEA agents in early November of 2000, reluctantly named the source of the ergotamine tartrate, an LSD chemical precursor valued at approximately $ 100,000 per kilogram.

I don't know what I can legally do here," Skinner responded when asked by Bennett to name the ET source. "I tried not to look at this type of information so I wouldn't become contaminated,"
Skinner then stated the name of Jim Miller and said he had identified the man's photo from among eight or 10 photos show to him by DEA agents.

Skinner testified that he and Pickard and several others had traveled to Chicago in Vay of 2000, to negotiate a deal for 40 kilograms of ET, According to Skinner, Pickard, the alleged ET Man, and another person sat around a table in a lobby of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, while he (Skinner) and three other associates sat about 40 or 50 feet away.

"I never met the ET Man in my life that I know about," Skinner testified. "I believe it (the guy at the table) was the ET man and I have confirmation of it since then."

Admitted co-conspirator volunteered for drug experiments

The Wamego Times,Volume 116 •Number 8 • February 20, 2003
by Mark Portell
Wamego Times Editor

A New Mexico man who once participated in government-authorized human experiments with hallucinogenic drugs last week admitted to being a co-conspirator to manufacture LSD with William Leonard Pickard and Clyde Apperson.

Alfred Savinelli, the owner of Native Scents, a Taos, N. M. company which produces and sells "tools for personal transformation," negotiated with the government a "proffer agreement" for non-prosecution in exchange for his compliance in the trial of Pickard and Apperson, the San Francisco area men charged with one count of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute LSD.

The accused men were arrested in early November of 2000, after leaving the converted missile base northwest of Wamego, driving a Buick and a truck carrying the alleged clandestine LSD lab. If convicted, they could face life imprisonment.

SAVINELLI TESTIFIED last Thursday in U. S. District Court how, in the early to mid- 1990s, he had purchased chemicals and glassware for Pickard for what he initially thought was academic work, but later learned

was for producing illegal substances. Chemical containers with the alleged LSD lab seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration had shipping labels from Native Scents, according to earlier testimony.

"My understanding was it was LSD," Savinelli said Linder direct questioning by Assistant U. S. Attorney Greg Hough. Savinelli said initially he had never seen the lab, but Pickard later "came to me and said, 'I spilled LSD on myself' in the laboratory." Savinelli's involvement in the conspiracy was expected to be explored further Tuesday when the trial resumed.

Previously, Gordon Todd Skinner, former owner of the Warnego missile base and an admitted co-conspirator who pledged cooperation with the government in exchange for his own immunity, testified how he first met Savinelli in 1984, at an "entheogenic conference" in the San Juan Islands, and in 1994 at the Telluride! Mushroom Festival.

Following the second meeting, Skinner said he visited Savinelli's Taos home every two or three weeks to exchange research on hallucinogens. Among those he saw at Savinelli's, Skinner said, were! rock stars Sting and Paul Simon; Dr.

ACCORDING TO Savinelli, he volunteered to participate in government-approved research at the University of New Mexico in which experiments on the effects of hallucinogenic drugs on humans were conducted. Savinelli said DMT (dimethyltryptamine) was injected into his veins a dozen times during the experiment, after which he became "quite enthralled" with tryptamines and used them once or twice a month for the next 10 years.

He also admitted to using marijuana and ayahuaska, an hallucinogenic tea brewed from rain forest plants and used in a four-hour "religious ceremony." The effects of the drugs on Savinelli's mental capacity have yet to be medically determined, he testified.

A self-trained chemist and botanist
nist, Savinelli said he started Native Scents with two partners in October of 1989. The company grinds and distills plant materials to produce things such as ceremonial oils, smudge bundles and sweet grasses sold in 23 different countries. He has since bought out his partners and the company now sells products in 23 different countries, Savinelli testified. Mexican artisan testifies

A Mexican artisan who did tile work at two Kansas missile bases testified last week that in the summer of 2000, he helped move chemicals and glassware from an underground missile silo at Carneiro, Ks. (west of Salina in Ellsworth County) to the former missile base site near Wamego.

Pedro Guadalupe Teniorio Matias, a government witness called to corroborate earlier testimony given by Gordon Todd Skinner, said he was brought to the U. S. by a man named "Hugo," arriving in the spring of

1998, at Taos, N. M., where he was to do some work for a man named "Alfredo."

AFTER THE Taos job was complete, Matias-who speaks no English and testified through a court interpreter-said he was brought to Wamego by Hugo and spent about 2 1/2 years in Kansas, where he was paid $400 a week in cash by Skinner to do decorative tile work at both the Wamego and Carneiro missile bases.

In September of 1999, Matias said he returned to Taos with Gunnar Guinan, an employee at the Wamego missile base, to look for materials for the bathroom. Skinner was also in Taos, Matias testified, and they went to a restaurant where a "tall guy with long, white hair" put $ 1,000 in cash in his breast pocket to do some work at a house in a remote mountainous area outside of Santa Fe, N. M. In court, Matias identified the man as Pickard.

In December of 1999, after work-

ing three days alone at the Carneiro base, Matias said he was awakened by two men who entered the underground silo while he was sleeping. The two men-identified in court by Matias as Pickard and Apperson gave the tile worker a ride back to Wamego.

IN THE summer of 2000, Matias said he was taken back to the Carneiro base by Guinan and Michael Hobbs. They were met by Skinner and his father and they spent two days carrying chemicals and glassware from a locked room inside the base and loading it into a truck. The containers-many of which had "danger" labels--were placed in large boxes and transported to the Wamego base where they were stored in the metal Lester building at the site, Matias testified.

While working at both the Santa Fe and Carneiro sites, Matias said he suffered bad headaches which went away after he went outside.